the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 3/26/2013

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:33 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome to the White House.  Thanks for being here.  I have no announcements to make at the top, so I'll go to Darlene.

Q    Thank you.  On gay marriage, can you tell us at this point whether the President has been brought up to date on the arguments today over at the Supreme Court?

MR. CARNEY:  As you know, the Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett was there; White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler, as well as Associate Counsel Kathleen Hartnett were in attendance.  The President has been updated on the arguments, but beyond that I don't have anything for you.

Q    Has he signed the CR? 

MR. CARNEY:  He has not, but will, I'm sure, in due time. 

Q    And then a quick question about Afghanistan, the meeting that Secretary of State Kerry had with Karzai, where Karzai sort of explained that his comment that the U.S. was conspiring with the Taliban was misinterpreted by the media.  Is the White House satisfied with President Karzai’s explanation about what he had to say?

MR. CARNEY:  We have a very important relationship with President Karzai.  Most importantly, we have a very important relationship with the Afghan people, the Afghanistan government. As you know, on Sunday, Secretary Kerry and Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Kayani had dinner and they discussed a range of bilateral security issues, including combatting terrorism, reconciliation process in Afghanistan and regional security.  And of course, as you know, Secretary Kerry was in Kabul yesterday to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to our strategic partnership with Afghanistan, and he met with President Karzai and other Afghan officials as well as the civil society groups to discuss how we can continue to work together to sustain the progress we've made and to advance our shared goal of a stable, sovereign Afghanistan that is no longer a launching pad for al Qaeda and other transnational terrorists.

As you know, the transfer of responsibility for the facility of Bagram has taken place and we are continuing to work with our Afghan counterparts as we move forward with the President’s policies on these issues.

Yes.

Q    North Korea has renewed some of its threats against the United States.  Does this raise heightened concerns, or is this just the usual rhetoric?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Mark, as you know, North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and the threats that they engage in follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.  And as we say consistently, the DPRK will achieve nothing by these threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

We continue to urge the North Korean leadership to heed President Obama’s call to choose the path of peace and to come into compliance with its international obligations.  This is something that we work on consistently with our international partners.  The United Nations Security Council recently took action unanimously in response to North Korean actions that were not in keeping with their international obligations and imposed further sanctions as part of that process.

So we do look at this as part of a pattern and we respond in the way that we always have.

Q    And if I can just go back to Darlene’s question -- I know it’s early days yet on the Prop 8 case, but some of Justice Kennedy’s comments raise concerns that the Court might not want to fully engage on this topic.  Would this be a missed opportunity to settle an issue of such great importance for the country?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I'm not going to evaluate the arguments today, and I, as everyone, I think, will wait for whatever decisions the Supreme Court makes in the case they heard today and the case they’ll hear tomorrow.  I would wait -- I think we've seen in recent history there’s ample reason to be cautious about predicting outcomes in Supreme Court cases based on any particular piece of the puzzle -- in this case, oral arguments.  So I'll heed my own caution and not engage in that.

Q    And just one detail -- you’ve said that the budget submission would come the week of April 8th.  Have you narrowed it down to the day of that week yet?

MR. CARNEY:  Between Monday and Friday.  (Laughter.) 

Yes.  Good to see you.

Q    Let me go to immigration for a moment.  This morning Janet Napolitano said --

MR. CARNEY:  And by “between” I mean it could include Monday or Friday.  (Laughter.)  Sorry.

Q    Inclusive, in other words.

MR. CARNEY:  Inclusive of. 

Q    Secretary Napolitano said today that triggers are not necessary before comprehensive immigration reform.  So what does the White House do to convince those on the other side?  Since there are no reliable metrics about border security, what will you do to convince them that the border is secure enough for immigration and a path to citizenship to begin?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the question is excellent, and I would note that what Secretary Napolitano has said -- Secretary Napolitano has said that the Department of Homeland Security measures progress using a number of metrics to make sure we are putting our resources where they will have the most impact.  And I think that while there are different ways to look at this issue, the fact is, by a host of measures, there has been great improvement in our border security.

Certainly the facts are there when it comes to the resources that have been applied to border security -- the doubling of border security agents, as well as the other metrics that you will often hear Secretary Napolitano or others discuss.  So we look at a variety of measures.

And I think you can look at what this President has committed to and the record on border security since he came into office to evaluate his assertion that border security is a vital element of comprehensive immigration reform.  That has been his position, and it continues to be.  And I would note -- and this is something that has been acknowledged by important members of the Senate, Republican members -- the progress that has been made on this very important issue, border security.  Much of -- the last time comprehensive immigration reform was essentially abandoned, some of the issues -- the principal reason for that was because of concerns about border security.  And many of the metrics that were put forward then have been met -- the goals and the targets that were said to have to be achieved before we could move forward have been met. 

But this is an ongoing issue.  This is an ongoing concern, and it’s an ongoing project of this administration.  And it will certainly be an important part of immigration reform.

Q    Do you -- does the White House oppose commissions or certain triggers before a path to citizenship can begin?

MR. CARNEY:  What we have said and I’ll say today is that we are not going to judge the bill before it’s been written.  And we are working with the senators who are in the Gang of Eight as they make progress, and they’ve made considerable progress, and that is worth noting.  Senator Schumer just the other day talked about where they are in that process and the progress that they’ve been making, and we were heartened by that. 

But as the President said yesterday, we have to keep pushing.  We have to make sure that we follow through on this progress, and that that progress leads to a bill that has bipartisan support and that can be signed by this President.  And we’re not there yet.  Progress is being made.  It’s being made in the Senate, which is where the President hoped it would be made. And we are very much monitoring that process and engaging in that process.  But it’s not done yet, and I don't want to prejudge a bill that hasn't been written.

Q    But if I could just press you on it, it does appear as though that Secretary Napolitano did today prejudge.  She said the triggers are not necessary.  Does the White House agree with that assessment?

MR. CARNEY:  I think what she was saying -- and the assessment we do agree with -- is that there are a variety of metrics by which you can measure, and we do measure, progress on border security.  And these are metrics that others use to measure border security, including Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and beyond the Senate, beyond the Congress. 

So we're working with Congress on this, with the Senate on this.  Progress has been made.  Border security is one of the key principles that the President has put forward that has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform.  He has demonstrated his seriousness on this issue, as has Secretary Napolitano.  But it is something that we're -- it’s not a done project.  We have to continue working on it.

Q    Senators Paul, Cruz and Lee say that they plan to filibuster a procedural vote to begin considering gun control legislation.  Is the President aware of this and what is his reaction?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't discussed that with him.  I did see him earlier today, but I didn't hear that issue raised.  I would simply say that filibusters of efforts to move forward with common-sense measures to reduce gun violence would be unfortunate.  We have worked with Congress, with the Senate, to try to advance the elements of the President's plan that require legislative action.  And these, again, are common-sense measures.

Closing gun show loopholes, that's an idea that has something like 90 percent of support in the United States; by some polls, has a majority of support among gun owners in America, support among Republicans and independents and Democrats.  We ought to be able to do this.

But it's hard.  And we're continuing to work with Congress to get it done.  And as you know, a number of pieces of this have been voted out of committee.  That is important progress.  Senator Reid has vowed that action will be taken on these elements, and that is important progress.  We hope that that takes place. 

A vote ought to be held on all these elements.  That was what the President made clear when he announced his plan.  It is what the American people deserve.  It is what the victims of gun violence deserve.  I don't think you need to tell the families of those who have lost their children to gun violence that bills like this might be filibustered -- I don't think that would be welcome news. 

Q    Do you think you would be able to overcome that 60-vote threshold?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have prognostications to make about these measures.  What I can tell you is that they have broad support, elements of them have overwhelming support, and they ought to be voted on.  And the President backs every element of them.

Q    Also, does the President think the assault weapons ban has any chance of passing as an amendment?

MR. CARNEY:  The President supports strongly the renewal of the assault weapons ban.  He has since he was a senator.  It is a part of the comprehensive package of proposals that he put forward and he certainly hopes that the Senate will pass it.

Q    What type of pressure is he willing to exert?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has been engaging with lawmakers of both parties on these issues.  When he has been having conversations with Democrats and Republicans, much of the attention has focused on fiscal and budget issues in the reporting and much of the conversation has been devoted to those topics.  But they have also included conversations about comprehensive immigration reform and moving forward on gun violence measures. 

And that will continue, as will our staff interaction with Congress on these issues.  And you'll continue to hear the President in public discuss the need to move forward on these important measures. 

Q    Will he really twist arms, though, particularly with members of his own party?

MR. CARNEY:  I think he has and will continue to make clear that this is a measure that he believes ought to pass; that it's a common-sense measure that would not -- and this is true of everything that’s part of his plan -- would not take a single firearm away from a law-abiding American citizen; that respects entirely the Second Amendment rights of the American people -- Second Amendment rights that the President supports, but which, as all of the measures do as a package, would help reduce the scourge of gun violence in America, which is an objective that he believes is non-political, non-partisan -- because the victims of gun violence in America are not Democrats or Republicans, and, as we have learned, they're often not even eligible to vote.

Q    Jay, can I follow up?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes.

Q    It appears that background checks are sort of the center of gravity in this legislative debate.  And I wonder if the White House believes it's a false construct on its face, both politically and from a policy perspective, that background checks require a federal registry?

MR. CARNEY:  It is not our position that --

Q    But is it a false construct?  Did you not have --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t -- that maybe too clever for me to answer.  I think the fact is, is that the existing system -- this is something that I think is misunderstood by those who don’t follow this issue closely.  There is a background check system.  What the President believes has to be done, and what the efforts underway in Congress hopefully would do if passed and made law, would close the loopholes in that system, make the system comprehensive so that it is absolutely effective in -- as effective as it can be in preventing weapons from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. 

That’s the purpose of the system.  And it is -- this idea is supported, as I said earlier, by a huge majority of the American people of all political persuasion. 

Q    You are aware that being injected into this debate is a either assertion or a fear that a registry has to be accompanied for this to be effective?  I'm curious what the administration --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we do not believe that’s -- whether you would describe that as a false construct or not, we do not believe that.  That is not what would happen.  And a system that already exists merely needs to be improved so that these loopholes are closed, so that those who should not have weapons cannot obtain them.  That is the purpose of this legislation.  And it does not involve registries.  It is simply a background check system that would do in full what the system already does in part, which is, in a very simple process, ensure that those who don’t -- or should not have weapons cannot obtain them. 

Q    And that would apply to private transactions, as well?

MR. CARNEY:  The position is, is that the loopholes ought to be closed, all of them.  I'm not going to get involved in the specific negotiations underway right now.  This is obviously a topic of much discussion among those in the Senate who are engaged in this process. 

But we firmly believe that this element of the President's package is very important, and that it ought to be passed -- as should all elements.  This one in particular has enormous support among the American people.  It is, on its face, a common-sense measure, and we hope it moves forward.

Q    I want to follow up on Jim's question on immigration, because you mentioned some of the metrics or ways that people thought about measuring things in 2007 when the bill fell apart. Are you saying that those are acceptable means of measuring, and, maybe by certain standards, have already been met, as far as border security?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m simply citing what some lawmakers, including Republicans, have said about the goals that were asserted by some back in that previous debate and how they have been met when it comes to some of these metrics. 

It is a fact that we now have nearly 22,000 personnel along our border.  That's an all-time high.  And they are deploying unprecedented levels of technology in the effort to make our border more secure.  And there are just a variety of metrics that DHS I know has discussed and provided to reporters that confirm the progress that has been made on border security issues.  We want to --

Q    -- the 2007 standard, the border is already secure?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think that what I would say, in echoing some lawmakers, is that much of what was put forward as necessary back in that debate has been achieved.  I would not suggest, because the President would not support this proposition, that we do not need to continue to do everything we can to make our border more secure. 

And the President is committed to that.  That's why it’s a key element of comprehensive immigration reform.  Secretary Napolitano is committed to that.  And we are working every day to take necessary measures to improve our border security.  And that's part of the discussion right now on this important piece of legislation.

Q    Lastly, on the CR, whenever the President signs it, what is the take-away from the White House on the fact that he will sign a CR that in large measure puts into law for the second time sequestration and perhaps casts a shadow over future years? Because the sequestration is there and there are those who look at it now and say this is part of a new normal.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the CR does not put -- the CR just simply extends budget levels in keeping with the previous budget agreements.  The sequester stays into effect.  It doesn't alter the fact that the sequester is being implemented in keeping with the law. 

There is no question that we believe we should not have come to this point where sequester would be imposed.  There’s no question that we believe regular folks out there are being unnecessarily harmed by imposition of the sequester -- which was designed by Democrats and Republicans purposefully never to become law, to be filled with nonsensical approaches to deficit reduction. 

Q    And yet here it is? 

MR. CARNEY:  And yet here it is.  So we would love to see Republicans change their mind about imposition of the sequester. We would welcome a change of heart, maybe a change back to the position they held for much of 2012, which was sequester’s imposition would be cataclysmic and terrible for the economy and for our national defense -- that is what they said at the time -- instead of doing what they did on January 1st -- end of the year, January 1st -- instead of doing it, which was to postpone or delay the implementation of sequester with a balanced buy-down, which they were willing to do two months ago and now are suddenly unwilling to do -- or recently became suddenly unwilling to do.  We would welcome a reversal of that position.

Q    The President has had to accommodate political realities he finds very negative, right?

MR. CARNEY:  There is no question that Republicans chose to implement the sequester.  We cannot -- we have presented ways -- the President has presented ways on numerous occasions to eliminate the sequester entirely, to do that in a balanced way, to do that in a way that asks those who are well-off and well-connected to participate in further deficit reduction --

Q    Right, but you lost that.

MR. CARNEY:  No, we have not lost that.  The fact is --

Q    This doesn’t mean you’ve lost that debate?

MR. CARNEY:  On the overall effort to reduce our deficit in a balanced way?  No, absolutely not.  The fact is the Senate passed a budget that is balanced in its approach to deficit reduction that allows for the key investments that are necessary so that our economy will grow and our kids are educated.  It enacts further spending cuts and entitlement reforms.  It mirrors the balanced approach that the Simpson-Bowles Commission put forward, that the President’s budget proposals and submissions to the sequester and his offer to John Boehner represent. 

And we hope that now that the House has passed a budget and the Senate has passed a budget that we can come together -- Democrats and Republicans -- and reach a compromise.  Compromise requires accepting the general proposition you’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want.  The President has in his own submissions and offers and his budget made clear that he understands that, that he is willing to compromise on things that are difficult for Democrats. 

What we have not seen as of yet is a commensurate willingness by Republicans to compromise.  So their position now is we ought to devastate Medicare; we ought to seriously reduce, dramatically reduce our spending on education, research and development, innovation, manufacturing, infrastructure -- just cut, cut, cut to the bone in the name of deficit reduction -- but while we do that, reform our tax code in a way that funnels massive tax cuts for the well-off. 

That's a terrible approach to the problems that we face, because this challenge can be dealt with in a balanced and reasonable way.  And that's represented in the President's proposals.  It's represented in the budget the Senate passed.  And the President hopes that as these conversations continue that he has been engaged in that we can move forward and find common ground.  It's going to be hard, because as we've seen in the House, there is an embrace of -- by some -- of the idea that the well-off and well-connected should not only be held harmless, but they should get a huge tax cut.

Q    I understand that, Jay.  But that's all -- budget resolutions are all theoretical until you do something in reconciliation.  The CR is law.  And for the second time now --

MR. CARNEY:  The CR is simply --

Q    You're putting into place that which the White House fundamentally opposes -- originally suggested but hoped never would be implemented but now has to implement.

MR. CARNEY:  I just want to be clear.  The CR extends funding level for the government through the fiscal year at the levels already agreed to by both parties.  It did not eliminate the sequester.  It doesn't address the sequester.  The sequester remains law. 

Q    It could have, but it didn't. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, look, the Republicans made clear that they went from saying the sequester would be the worst possible thing --

Q    And yet, the President is going to sign this.
 
MR. CARNEY:  -- that could ever happen to calling it a homerun; to saying it was a political victory for the tea party.

Q    That the President now shares.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, no, he doesn't.  He thinks they were wrong. 

Q    But signing it anyway.  

MR. CARNEY:  The CR does not -- you're not signing a sequester, Major.  I think you’ve got to understand the CR is not the sequester.  Republicans chose to impose the sequester.  The sequester was part of the Budget Control Act.  So if you're asking me does the President regret that Republicans would not make a common-sense, balanced proposition to postpone or eliminate the sequester -- you bet.  Is he continuing to work with lawmakers of both parties on a bigger deal that would not just eliminate the sequester, but reduce our deficit beyond the $4 trillion target that we've all talked about?  Yes, he is.  And he hopes that Republicans will go along with that, because the American people overwhelmingly support it.

Q    Jay, on Syria, interesting moment today at the Arab League Summit where, of course, President Assad was not there, so a Syrian opposition leader took his seat.  I wonder if you could talk about how symbolically important you think that is in terms of getting Assad out of power?  But also, when that opposition leader had the microphone, he seemed to be calling on the U.S., some of our key allies, to do more.  How do you answer that criticism that you're facing?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would say a couple of things.  One is we support the Syrian Opposition Coalition, as you know.  And we do so with our partners.  We believe that it is the legitimate representative of the opposition and of the Syrian people in their effort to rid their country of the scourge that is President Assad, a leader with enormous amounts of the blood of his own people on his hands. 

We continue to provide an exceptional amount of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, the largest amount, I believe, of any country.  We continue to provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition and continue to step up the levels of non-lethal assistance that we provide.  And we work with our partners. 

As the President said on his trip when he was asked about Syria, this is a problem that we are working with our partners on.  It is one, when it comes to our policy, that we are constantly evaluating in terms of what steps we should be taking to help bring about the transition in Syria that the Syrian people so desperately deserve.  And we will continue to do that. 
The fact is that we have provided an enormous amount of humanitarian assistance.  We are assisting the opposition and we'll continue to do so, working with our partners. 

Q    On that trip, he was obviously in Jordan.  And since he's returned from Jordan there have been reports and there’s some conflicting information about whether or not the U.S. is training the Syrian opposition inside the boundaries of Jordan.  And the question is whether we're directly training the Syrian opposition, or whether we're training the Jordanian forces to then train them.  Can you clear that up?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let me say that we have always been clear that our non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition includes equipment and training to build a capacity of civilian activists, and to link Syrian citizens with the Syrian Opposition Coalition and local coordinating councils.  So I can say that much.

Q    So what does that mean in English, though, I guess?  (Laughter.) 

MR. CARNEY:  That was pretty good English. 

Q    Well, I mean, no offense, but --

MR. CARNEY:  There were no dangling participles.

Q    I mean, so are we training the Syrians directly, or are we training them through Jordanian --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can just tell you that, again, our non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition includes equipment and training to build a capacity of civilian activists.  On some of these other issues, I don’t have anything for you.  But it is clear that we are providing the kinds of non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition that we've discussed.

Q    Okay.  One other quick question on health care.  Republicans on the Hill are complaining that there is a draft questionnaire -- or draft application, I should say, for people to apply for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  And I think it's on page 59, there's a question asking whether you want to register to vote.  And Republicans are complaining specifically about the idea that in offering a benefit, there seems to be a suggestion that the administration wants to steer people to register to vote, but to also register for the Democratic Party because you're getting a benefit.  Is that the administration is doing?

MR. CARNEY:  Are you suggesting that all benefits -- does that means the Republicans are disowning any ownership of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security?  Is that --

Q    This is about the Affordable Care Act. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, actually --

Q    When you apply for Medicare --

MR. CARNEY:  -- the linkage of checking off whether or not you want to register to vote goes back to a 1993 law regarding Medicaid, which maybe Republicans opposed, I can't remember.  But again, it goes back to that.  It's not about the Affordable Care Act.  As a separate measure, I'm not sure that it's such a terrible thing that people might want to register to vote.  But I think this predates the Affordable Care Act.

Yes, sir.  Peter.

Q    Jay, back to Syria very briefly.  How do we know that the aid, humanitarian or military, in any form that’s coming from the United States is going to the right people, is getting to the good guys in Syria right now?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, obviously, we monitor this closely in making our decisions about the kinds of aid that we supply and who we provide it to -- evaluate just these questions.  But when it comes to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, we obviously have recognized that organization, and work with our partners and directly with them to help them unify and to provide non-lethal assistance to them.  But this is a question I think, going back on this issue in Syria, that we've talked about in the past that we have to make these evaluations all the time.

Q    And do we presently have people on the ground inside Syria helping vet those opposition members to determine -- groups to see exactly who should be recipients?

MR. CARNEY:  Not that I'm aware of, no. 

Q    Let me digress very briefly -- I want to ask you a question.  Given the fact that the President is a big college sports fan and now we're heading toward the Sweet 16, this is the first year where basketball teams have been disqualified for failing to meet academic requirements.  This year one of the teams that failed to make it was Connecticut, because it didn’t graduate approaching 50 percent of those necessary to graduate.  So would the President be willing to endorse efforts to raise the minimum academic rate, basically -- the minimum graduation rate higher to 60 percent or something like that? 

MR. CARNEY:  It's a fascinating question, and I don’t know the answer to it.  I haven't had that conversation with him.  I know he believes strongly in the need for student athletes to be students, but I don’t -- beyond that, I haven't had a conversation with him about that particular proposal.

Q    I guess the question, then, to take for consideration  -- I'll pose it to you again since we'll have plenty of time to talk basketball -- the gist is, right now, if you have 50 percent, that’s viewed as sufficient to play in the NCAA tournament.  Does this White House support efforts to try to make it higher than that?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I wouldn’t want to guess whether we have a position or what it is.  I can just tell you that the President, in general, believes that it’s important for student athletes to be students and not just athletes.

Roger.

Q    Thanks.  Back to immigration and guns for a moment.  You said a few minutes ago that --

MR. CARNEY:  I'm driving them away.  (Laughter.)  Maybe it’s you, Roger, I don't know.  (Laughter.) 

Q    You said a few minutes ago that we will continue to hear the President in public on these two issues.  Can you give a little sketch as to what’s planned in the next several weeks on pressing immigration and guns?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  I can just say that -- I have no scheduling announcements to make.  But the President has made clear --

Q    Speeches out of town, trips to the Hill again, one-on-one?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don't have any specific scheduling engagement to preview for you.  Going back to his State of the Union address and then back even further to the announcement of his plan to reduce gun violence, the President has made clear that he considers this a priority.  And he will make that clear, as he has already, in the future, in the coming days and weeks as these issues are being -- as these issues are considered by the Senate and hopefully move forward in the Senate.

So beyond that, I don't want to preview anything for you, but you can be sure the President will be continuing to discuss what he believes are fundamentally common-sense proposals that would help reduce gun violence in America in a way that is absolutely appropriate and that in no way infringes on our Second Amendment rights; in no way would take any weapons away from any law-abiding citizen.  And he believes that we ought to move forward with those measures, and we are working with the Senate as they consider them.

Q    The event in Florida on Friday is on the economy, but could he conceivably touch on these two subjects as well?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I'm not going to preview that event or the President’s remarks.  I would just say that in coming days and weeks, as these issues move forward in the Senate, the President will want to make clear his support for common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.

Yes, Alexis.

Q    Can you tell us whether any members of Congress will be with the President at the event?  It’s supposed to be at the Port of Miami.

MR. CARNEY:  I just don't have anything for you on that.  When we're ready to provide more details about the President’s schedule we'll offer them to you, but I don't have anything more.

Q    Can you at least suggest that it’s trade-related?  Can you help us --

MR. CARNEY:  I can promise you that when we have more information to provide that we will provide it -- and it will be excellent.

Yes, Steve.

Q    To follow up Ed’s question, Khatib specifically ask for NATO and U.S. to provide Patriot missile protection for rebels from -- to Syria.  That would seem to me to test the non-lethal help.  Is that something the U.S. might consider?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we are aware of the request and at this time, NATO does not intend to intervene militarily in Syria.  I think that a Patriot missile battery I think would be -- would fall within the definition of military assistance.  The Patriot missile batteries that are deployed in Turkey are for defensive purposes only, to augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend its territory and people.

But again, we will continue to work with the coalition leadership and membership to expand their efforts to provide essential services to Syrians across the country, to deliver assistance to those in need, and prepare for a Syrian-led political transition toward a free and democratic Syria.

Bill.

Q    Jay, the Italian highest court in Italy has reversed the verdict of Amanda Knox, who is now back in the United States. Is there any way the Obama administration would agree to the extradition of Amanda Knox so she could go -- had to go back to Italy?

MR. CARNEY:  This is a legal matter that’s I think still in process.  I just don't have any comment on it, Bill.

Yes.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Back on the gun issue, there have been 381 sheriffs, local sheriffs, that have signed on saying that they would not enforce gun laws that they believe are unconstitutional.  Would the administration or the Justice Department have any problems with that if a sheriff at the local level or local law enforcement did not enforce whatever gun package that is passed?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I haven’t seen the letters that you reference.  I think that as a general proposition we think that people ought to follow the law.  And as an absolute matter of fact, in my view and I think many others, including constitutional experts, there’s not a single measure in this package of proposals the President has put forward that in any way violates the Constitution.  In fact, they reflect the President’s commitment to our Second Amendment rights.

Q    Okay, and one more.  Today the Democrats For Life filed amicus briefs in two cases regarding the HHS mandate.  Would you have any comment on that?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't.  I don't have anything for you on that.

All the way in the back, yes, sir.

Q    Jay, a question on immigration.  What’s the position of the President with regard to visas for immediate family member, immigrants who will benefit with any immigration reform?

MR. CARNEY:  I know that this is an issue that is part of the discussion as comprehensive immigration reform is being worked on in the Senate.  I don't have anything specific for you on it.  We want to see what emerges from that process.  The President’s views on this are reflected in his blueprint, which has been available for sometime online.  But I don't want to prejudge a bill -- a bipartisan bill that's being worked on before we’ve seen the language in that bill.

Yes, sir.

Q    You said you didn't want to get into the business of predicting Supreme Court case outcomes.  Should we expect the President to talk about same-sex marriage at all between now and the Court’s decision?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I mean the President’s views are clear.  He made those views clear last year.  He spoke about in a press conference I believe about the amicus brief that the Department of Justice filed, and he spoke beyond that about his own views and how the application of heightened scrutiny in his view would mean that there would be no way to write a law that cleared the bar when it came to justifying discrimination against LGBT Americans. 

But it’s certainly possible that either in an engagement with -- in a press conference or some other encounter, he might be asked about and therefore speak about it, but I don't have anything beyond that to preview for you. 

Ann.

Q    To follow on that, does the President have any thought about why there’s so much interest in this now, and so many members of Congress and public figures are changing their minds on gay marriage?  I think it was Jay Rockefeller and Senator McCaskill has changed, Senator Warner of Virginia.  Does he have any thoughts on what it is about an issue like this that has really a very dramatic increase in support in public opinion polls in the last year?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President has noted in talking with you about the transformation that's been taking place in American society on these issues.  He’s talked about his own evolution on these issues.  And many other commentators on American society have discussed I think in depth this phenomenon, which is a welcome phenomenon.  And I think the only comment that we would have about it -- we’d leave the in-depth studies to sociologists and others -- is that it is a recognition by an increasing number of Americans that gay and lesbian Americans ought not to be discriminated against. 

And that goes to core principles about who we are as a country.  The President spoke about this in his inaugural address, and that section of the address was much noted.  And it reflects his core beliefs on these issues.

Donovan.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  I just wanted to get back a little bit to the sequester and implementation here at the White House.  Has there -- is there further information about that?  Like, are people getting furlough notices?

MR. CARNEY:  I'll have to check.  We were traveling.  I'm not sure what updates I have on that.  As we've said in the past, the sequester applies to the White House and the Executive Office of the President as it does to the rest of the executive branch. But I don’t have any more details for you.

Q    People have been asking about this for weeks.  Is there a way to maybe corral some of the information and put it out, as opposed to just getting the question again and again and again?  Because we're going to keep asking again and again.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, we'll see what we can get for you.  This is -- when furlough decisions are made, as I understand it -- and I would have to refer you to OMB -- about the implementation and application of the sequester, there might be furlough notices or reductions in pay.  And I'm not familiar with the details.  And I don’t think -- before those things actually happen -- and we've seen this in other agencies, that before the notices actually go out, we don’t have specific information about when that will happen because I think those evaluations are being made in real time. 

Is that it?  Thanks, all.

END 
1:12 P.M. EDT